On the Road Again. Sleeping in Walmart Parking Lots Again. (Tacoma, WA)

Most of you probably haven’t considered the difference between RVers and Vanners, but in general, there is quite a chasm between the two groups.

Vanning usually consists of a party no larger than two individuals, and likely a pet or two. Vanners consume 3-5 gallons of water per day, keep relatively little fresh food on board (only a day or two’s worth, minimal to no meat), tend to avoid paying for overnight accommodations, don’t mind a weekly shower, and get decent gas mileage. Also, vanners can sometimes be a close knit group, where not everyone smiles to welcome a newcomer.

RVing, depending on the size of vehicle, will travel with any where from 2 to 6 people, and may have animals as well. Ironically, I have met more vanners with medium size dogs, and RVers with small dogs. RVers, have much more fresh food storage capacity, grill more meat than most vanners, and enjoy RV parks with full or partial services hook ups (water, electricity, sewage), which costs anywhere from $25 – $50 per night (avg), and don’t even get me started on gas consumption. RVers want more of the “normal” every day conveniences.

There is a broad spectrum from the most minimalist vanner to the most consumptive RVer. And those statements are absolutely general patterns I have noticed in my travels.

JB and I, previously being of the vanners group, have hesitantly shifted towards the RVing. I was more troubled to make the jump, but given our financial limitations and safety requirements, a 1992 27ft Minnie Winnie was our best option. After our accident, as you could imagine, we were a bit more meticulous about who we would purchase from (we bought our previous van from a crackhead on craigslist – not dramatizing). We wanted a vehicle that was no older than 1990, had relatively low mileage, appeared to be well maintained, minimal to no jerry rigging of equipment (which can be difficult to find in older vehicles), required no serious projects, is resell-able, and owned by a trustworthy person. That last requirement is really more challenging than you may think.

We specifically wanted to purchase via owner, not dealer; this is because dealers almost never know the true history of the used vehicle. We intentionally looked at one RV sold by a dealer, and even with clear water leak stains he stated there were no leaks (I say ‘intentionally looked’ b/c there are plenty of dealers posting in the “for sale by owner” section of craigslist pretending to be the private owner, something we struggled with). When you purchase from a trustworthy private owner they will tell you what is wrong  up front, letting you know what issues they have factored into the asking price (the previous owner of our new home let us know he backed up into a tree, had some patching on the roof done, and that we should get new tires if we go cross country). It was important for us to KNOW what we are getting, even if buying from a private owner means you get something with some issues – as opposed to buying from a dealer and getting a newer vehicle that looked like there might be nothing wrong, you really don’t know.

Honestly, the Craigslist car purchasing scene requires you to be intuitive, and to trust that intuition – and even more important – it ultimately requires that you trust people. It is hard to hand out cash to someone for something you have no previous interaction with. Buying a vehicle off Craigslist can be like two dogs meeting for the first time. Both hesitant of the other, sniffing from afar to get a feel “Can I trust this dog?”, there may be some raised hair until you get a good sniff , and if you like what you smell and trust can be established, you will both walk away pleased with the exchange and tails wagging. Unfortunately, Craigslist can also reveal some of the most selfish of humans, those willing to rip you off for their own gain – it makes you angry, like that visceral reaction at the pit of your stomach, and it makes that “trust people” requirement harder to fulfill.

JB and I flew to Seattle with hefty ambition of purchasing a vehicle during the first two days of our stay – we only had an Airbnb booked for two nights. If you ever go to the Tacoma area and want the most pleasant room to rent click here. Furthermore, by night four we were going to The Gorge Amphitheater (out in the middle of nowhere) to see Jack Johnson, and we planned on spending the night in our new van/RV, so we didn’t have any other accommodations planned. If both of these scenarios weren’t enough pressure to purchase, factor in the fact that JB needed to be studying for The Bar, not messing around with scammers on Craigslist. We might not have set ourselves up perfectly for success; but honestly, none of our adventures ever are. JB isn’t much of a planner, which sometimes leaves me feeling like I’m floating in purgatory, but it also leaves room for buying an RV and driving across the country (again). I fully recognize that if I were in his shoes I would never have made plans to buy an RV, and go to a concert in the few days before The Bar : he keeps nudging me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I resist. Sometimes I’m fluid. Just the waves reaching the shore and just as quickly pulling away.

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JB studying at the Airbnb, take a look at that awesome coffee mug I painted him
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practicing in the yoga room at the Airbnb (Tacoma, WA)

We “wasted” two days engaging with two scammers. JB was moments from withdrawing thousands from his bank account, when the seller started telling a story that didn’t add up. The seller insisted it was a legitimate sale, and maybe it was – we never got the full story. This was partially our responsibility, when I met the seller I knew his story didn’t sit perfectly well with me, it was just TOO good : an almost never used RV (25K miles, bed still in plastic) owned by his father-in-law who was about to drive across the country before he lost his license because of bad vision. Like, come on. Too good to be true. But the RV was in such superb condition, we both wanted to believe it was true – mainly since reselling it Florida would be a dream. Well, anyways, day 2 was coming to a close and we were both frustrated, overwhelmed, and disappointed. Thankfully, my old Alaska friend, Becca, was in town with us, and she kept me on my best behavior – she was the ultimate sport driving around with us, loading up a TJ Maxx cart (like 2 hrs of shopping) in anticipation of buying an RV, just to unload it once JB called me and said the deal was off.

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clearly being productive in TJ Maxx, backpack coolers FTW, modeled by Becca

Sitting at Starbucks, without a place to stay for the evening, I decided to call our previous Airbnb host to inquire if she could accommodate us one more night; thankfully, she is the sweetest and it worked out. With that strain off our backs, JB suggested we look at one more RV, a 1992 27′ Minnie Winnie, that we had previously written off because there was no propane fridge (meaning the fridge requires the generator to operate – not ideal, nor a long term solution). If this didn’t work out then we would fly back to Florida, a solution I had already resolved on and was relieved by. Well anyways, we saw her, we liked her, we drove around for an hour going to ATMs to withdraw the cash and we are driving this beaut around. Don, the previous owner was very kind – he didn’t seem too mechanically inclined but I trusted him, whether that be in vain or not is to be determined. I’ll let you guys know too.

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JB in front of our new home on the drive from The Gorge to Tacoma
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JB studying in the amphitheater parking lot while I try to distract him

She got us to Jack Johnson and back. The Gorge Amphitheater is stinking gorgeous (see slideshow below).

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And to my soul’s delight, driving though the mountains is just my element, its my home. I’m not nearly as nervous as I thought I would be riding shot gun. I don’t think I will be driving any mountain roads any time soon. Thankfully, I have the guy I trust with my life by my side. I already worked though a lot of the post-traumatic stress associated with our accident; I was given ample opportunity on the boat – that’s why I am a bit more at ease than I would guess.

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That’s the stuff.

Although, I still haven’t told my dad… so dad if you’re reading this, I love you, and will be home soon(ish), by September the latest. Don’t miss me too much; when I’m back you’ll have a messy kitchen again, and you’ll be the first to send me packing, out on the road again, sleeping in Walmart parking lots again.

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